Highlighting a hidden danger: elder abuse

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2008, 12:00am

After his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Mr Lee grew so frustrated with her violent outbursts that he contemplated ending it all - for both of them.

'I was very disturbed and strained as I needed to take care of her 24 hours a day,' Mr Lee, 69, said.

His wife, who underwent brain surgery in 2002 and whose condition has grown worse since, would push him down or bite him when he talked about putting her into a home for the elderly, he said.

'I do not blame her because she does not know what she is doing. I am just sorry for her,' he said.

He never considered he was being abused. Eventually a social worker arranged for his wife, 59, to move into a home after he approached the Hong Kong Christian Service for help, Mr Lee said.

He has since learned massage and rubs his wife's limbs when they visit - she is now able to walk down stairs again.

Angel Chan Fung-man, principal co-ordinator for Christian Service, said the number of cases of elder abuse increased from about 500 in 2006 to 612 last year. But she cautioned that the numbers were misleading as many abused elderly people remained quiet to protect the abusers, who were often a spouse or child.

To counteract this, the service yesterday recruited more than 60 elderly people to become the public face of an awareness campaign on the pervasiveness and dangers of elder abuse.

Social Welfare Department assistant director Anna Mak Chow Suk-har said it was important the elderly reject such treatment, not just for their own sake but also for the abuser's. 'Some abusers do not know what they are doing when they hurt the elderly. A report can help both parties sometimes,' she said.



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